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welcome to nhk world "newsline" on this national holiday. the man who has led the roman catholic church for nearly eight years says he is too old to do the job. pope benedict xvi is resigning and will leave the post at the end of the month. he's 85 years old. spokesperson for the vatican say the pope cited his advanced age whether he announced his decision and said he felt he could no longer fulfill his responsibilities. cardinal joseph ratzinger was 78 years old when he became pope in 2005 followi death of pope john paul ii.
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he was the first german to take over the role since the 11th century. pope benedict faced a string of challenges during his term from sexual abuse scandals involving members of the clergy to an investigation into money laundering in vatican city. in addition, a court convicted his former butler last year of stealing and leaking classified documents that alleged corruption in the vatican. the pope pardoned him over christmas. it's rare for a pope to resign. they usually die in the job. top members of the catholic church will now start planning their conclave. the meeting they hold to choose a successor. u.s. and south korean marines have given reporters a glimpse of their first joint winter drills. the marines started training together last week in the south korean mountain town of pyeongchang. they're improving their combat skills. about 400 marines practiced in a temperature of minus 10 degrees celsius. they shot at targets while
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skiing down a mountain and rappelled down a cliff with guns in their hands. the marines regularly train together. they say they want to be ready to deal with any attack from north korea. they've never drilled together in winter before. south korean leaders believe training in the harsh environment will help them work more closely together. the exercises are scheduled to last until friday of next week. a new commander has taken charge of international forces in afghanistan. he says he's determined to improve the abilities of afghan soldiers before foreign troops pull out. u.s. marine general joseph dunford took charge of the nato-led force in kabul. >> today is not about change. what's not changed is the growing capability of our afghan partners, the afghan national security forces. >> 100,000 soldiers take part in the mission, 66,000 of them from the u.s. most are scheduled to leave afghanistan by the end of next
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year. 350,000 afghan soldiers and police have taken over the lead role for security across much of the country. but they lack the training of foreign soldiers, and many others resign. some military analysts have questioned whether they will be able to maintain security once foreign troops are gone. students from the south pacific have traveled to northeastern japan to learn how to better prepare for natural disasters. they met with survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. 18 students visited miyaki in iwate prefecture. they were taken to see break water. they were told how this concrete structure was suppose freezing drizzle text neighborhoods but what waves surged over it and swamped homes and businesses. >> translator: elderly people ran for their lives at that moment. >> she said seniors were thankful that tsunami escape had hand rails. she told the group to always be
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ready for natural disasters to save lives. one of the students said their island could be hit by a tsunami but noted people there are less prepared. >> i believe now this group will go back and tell them how important it is. >> the foreign ministry has been inviting students from abroad to japan to help them learn lessons from the 2011 disaster. the program began last april, about 2,000 young people from around the world have visited iwate since then. japan's economy took a major hit after the march 2011 disaster. but investors seem encouraged by the weakening yen and recent political change. the market value of the japanese blue chip firms has soared by more than 30% over the past three months. market value is a key indicator of how investors are evaluating companies. the total market value of about 1,700 firms listed on the first section of the tokyo symptom stock exchange stood at $3.5 trillion as of last friday. up 31% from december.
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former prime minister yoshihko noda called a general election around that time. the liberal democratic party beat his democratic party the following month to return to power. smbc securities representatives say 71 companies have market capitalization of more than a trillion yen or nearly $11 billion up from 47 in mid-november. steelmaker jfe holdings posted the biggest increase. its market value nearly doubled to $14 billion. the electronics maker panasonic saw it'll market value jump 84%. analysts say rapid increase say investors expect the weakening yen will help japanese exporters improve earnings. scientists in japan are expected to start the world's first clinical trial using ips cells later this year.
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they are thinking ahead to when research teams would use stem cells to create human organs. they're introducing a fast track approval system so patients can receive transplants quickly. ips cells are created from recreated mature cells. some experts worry the health ministry would take a long time to approve the use of artificial organs. the quality is inconsistent and there are a limited number of case studies showing they are effective and safe. ministry officials want to give provisional approval if organs are confirmed safe even in a
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small number of trials. then they'll collect more data on the organs and decide whether to give full approval. they'll need to revise japan's pharmaceutical law to implement this new system. the health minister is planning to submit a bill to the current session of the diet. japanese prime minister shinzo abe wants the government to do a better job managing risk at home and abroad. he's taking steps towards forming a council to help coordinate policies on diplomacy and national security. abe is gathering experts to figure out who should sit on the national security council and what roles they would play. former foreign ministry official and former head of the self-defense forces are among the experts on the planning panel. they will meet later this week. abe tried to form a national security council the first time he was prime minister. lawmakers didn't deliberate his bill. council would help government officials deal with events like last month's hostage siege in algeria. they had a hard time getting details as that crisis unfolded. members of the planning panel will try to figure out how to help leaders get information more easily.
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and now here's the weather forecast. people in brazil are enjoying one of the highlights of the country's annual four-day
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long party. the samba contest is under way at rio de janeiro's carnival. ♪ things got started on sunday, 12 top class samba teams are taking part, each consisting of up to 4,000 members. they make lavish costumes and floats that pay tribute to everything from culture to painters to space travel. in some cases, the theme is up to interpretation. each team gets 80 minutes to perform. they're scored on dancing, costumes and unity. the two-day contest will continue until monday. the top six teams are expected to perform again at the champions parade on saturday, a few days after the carnival ends. we'll be back with more news next hour. i'm gene otani in tokyo. have a great day wherever you are.
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